Thanks to a conversation with a colleague about a joke t-shirt with that line, I can't seem to stop thinking of that line when it comes to my "vices," namely chocolate, cooking shows, and... reading cookbooks. Now, I'm sure many of you can relate to chocolate, some kind of tv show you can't stop watching, whether it's "Glee" or perhaps a reality tv show, but there are about two of you that I know who read cookbooks for fun.
I read a lot - business books, biographies, mysteries, literature, etc. Something I've always done and hopefully will do as long as my eyes work. But cookbooks? I know. I'm weird. One of my original goals of this blog was to edit down my cookbook collection. Unless IceDaddy is willing to let me turn one of the bedrooms into a cookbook library (NOT HAPPENING, he says), I need to keep them to a controllable amount. Having acquired three cookbooks for Christmas, that means I have to make an effort to get rid of at least one, if not more.
I have to admit, I've strayed from the goal of cooking just from the cookbooks. It's hard for me to just look there when I have these wonderful cooking magazines tempting me with seasonal goodness. But I still look at them for inspiration and for recipes. There are three cookbooks in particular that I can't seem to get rid of and yet I realize they're probably not useful overall.
So, with that, I present the cookbooks and my dilemma in which ones to downsize. By talking through this with you, I hope to convince myself of the same.
1. Cooking with Master Chefs by Julia Child. Originally, a companion to the PBS series. Any cookbook with Julia Child involves gets me to pick it up. Finding it on clearance at Half Price Books made me buy it. When I actually started cooking with it, the challenge is that it attempted to simplify down restaurant recipes, and that does not always translate well. I made a recipe by Charlie Palmer, a venison steak and some baked potato "chips" sandwiched with fresh herbs. The verdict? The steak was actually improved by my technique of wrapping in bacon for the cooking (to keep a lean piece of meat moist) more than I thought it was his ideas. The potato chips were "interesting" but I would not call them a success. In looking ahead to other chefs and their recipes, they are just not really a fit, other than maybe Lidia Bastianich and her Italian recipes.
2. Biba's Italian Kitchen. Also a Half Price Books acquisition. I was reading some bad press on the "Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" and thinking I needed to consider getting a book actually written by an Italian chef that had lived in Italy. Biba had a tv show on "The Learning Channel" (aka TLC now) back in the 1990s and this book was based on the show. The food I prepared is tasty, but I keep having a crisis with myself because I feel like the food is very "Americanized" and for some reason that really bothers me. Should it? I don't know - I was looking for authentic and I can't seem to get past that idea. I've liked some of what I cooked, but again, it's just not authentic.
3. Food Network Kitchens Making it Easy. With this pedigree, you would think that this is the best cookbook ever for me. I think it has good intentions - use of crock pot, pressure cooker, or quick recipes. In this case, I think it's simply a case of taste being subjective, and I don't see enough recipes that I want to make
4. Puerto Rican Cookery by Carmey Aboy Valldejuli. This is the biggest heartbreaker. I purchased this cookbook in San Juan after falling in love with the cuisine of Puerto Rico and especially the dish Pernil (pork shoulder). While I think it probably represents many good recipes and a variety of the repetoire of the cooking, it did not have that may appealing recipes. That said, it is THE cookbook reference for Puerto Rican food, much like Mastering the Art of French Cooking or the Escoffier Cookbook are regarded for French cuisine.
So, with all of that, what to choose... At this point in my evolution as a cook, I am notivated to learn new techniques, cuisine outside of my comfort zone, and challenging myself with more sophisticated food. Each of these cookbooks fills a criteria; however, having a finite space for storage and ability to retain every cookbook, alas I have elected to say goodbye to FN Kitchens and Julia. My love affair with Julia's cooking will continue via some of her other tomes. You may think my choices are arbitrary, but because of my pasta and sausage making, I'm interested in Italian food and its related techniques and I still retain a spot of affection for the Puerto Rican cuisine and cannot part with it. It will motivate me to revisit the cookbook and make some specialties again. I will report back on that in the future.